Why You Should Never Let Police In Your Home Without a Warrant
When police are at your door, it can be a frightening experience, especially if you don’t know all of your rights. A sudden knock on the door from law enforcement can leave you wondering:
- Do I have to answer the door?
- Am I legally obligated to speak to the police?
- Can the police enter my home without my permission?
A “knock and talk” is a common investigative technique used by police in which they arrive at your home, knock on your door, and ask to have a discussion with you. There are two legal requirements to a knock and talk: the interaction must be voluntary and consensual. If the knock and talk is carried out under involuntary or nonconsensual circumstances, it is no longer a knock and talk and your civil rights might be under violation.
The Fourth Amendment
According to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.”
This means police must generally obtain a search warrant before they can begin conducting a search of your home or residence. However, federal law does not require police to obtain a search warrant if they wish to conduct a knock and talk.
When police arrive at your home for a knock and talk, their goal is to ask questions that might lead you to consent to a search of your premises. Knock and talk techniques have been upheld in Federal courts as a constitutional method of investigation. Regarding the constitutionality of police approaching your front door, an excerpt often cited from Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reads:
“T]here is no rule of private or public conduct which makes it illegal per se, or a condemned invasion of the person’s right of privacy, for anyone openly and peaceably, at high noon, to walk up the steps and knock on the front door of any man’s “castle” with the honest intent of asking questions of the occupant thereof — whether the questioner be a pollster, a salesman, or an officer of the law.”
However, federal courts have also suggested that a knock and talk has to be conducted within narrow parameters. Although the knock and talk technique has been deemed constitutional, some courts have expressed outright disdain for the procedure. Circuit Judge Terence T. Evans had the following to say about knock and talk:
“The police had no warrant when they went to apartment 7. They were taking a shortcut in the hope that something good (from a drug-busting perspective) would turn up. A little more work would have given the police the probable cause they needed to secure a warrant, but they didn’t want to take the time to do something more. They wanted to go to apartment 7 and see what, if anything, was up… As I see it, the seeds of this bad search were sown when the police decided to use the “knock and talk” technique. And that process—which sounds more like a friendly visit to sell tickets to a police picnic than a perilous visit to a suspected drug hive—is fraught with danger, not to mention constitutional problems.”
As you can see there are potential constitutional dangers when it comes to knock and talks, which is why you should never let police in your home unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney in St. Augustine
At Albaugh Law Firm, our team of lawyers are here to help defend your rights. If police have entered your home without a warrant, you should immediately contact our law firm to get started building your defense strategy.
Contact us today to request your consultation. Our lawyers serve communities in St. Augustine and Jacksonville.